Tel Aviv, Mar. 14 – An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would mean an increase in prosperity by as much as 400 percent, according to Muhammed Abu Ein, who chairs the Palestinian Importers and Exporters Council.
“Both (Israeli and Palestinian) businessmen know that by peace, the economic situation and the level of prosperity would be triple or four times what it is now,” Abu Ein told delegates to a business seminar organized by The Israel Project.
There is already significant trade, about $4.5 billion in 2011, between Palestinian and Israeli businesspeople
“Once you come and see it with your own eyes you have a different perspective,” Palestinian businessman Murad Tahboub said. “We’re not like (what you see on) CNN of Fox News or Al Jazeera. There is a totally different side, a good side, and you just have to come and see it.”
“Most of the big businesses in Israel are totally pro-peace and they are very active about this – the same with the Palestinians,” Tahboub said. “Having sustainable economic development with a key emphasis on job creation is crucial, and should be looked upon carefully by all the countries who would like to do something in this region.”
Israeli and Palestinian members of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce (IPCC) say the investment message needs to be better communicated by politicians.
IPCC Chairman Avi Nudelman said the chamber is trying to give businesses on both sides the platform to make contacts. While large companies on both sides already had relationships, “there are a lot of medium and small businessmen who don’t know how to reach the other side.”
The Israel Project is helping in this direction with its Arabic-language jobs and tips webpage.
Prior to the seminar, participants toured the Ephraim Crossing point on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, one of several hi-tech commercial crossings between the West Bank and Israel. Although the Oslo peace accords called for a joint economy, the reality of the suicide bombings a decade ago led to separation of people and economies, said Col. (res.) Miri Eisin , a former Israeli defense official who guided the tour.
A major trade crossing for goods between the PA and Israel, the terminal is under civilian control and not unlike a border crossing between two future countries, Eisen said. Palestinian trucks enter the state-of-the-art facility, stay fully loaded while being scanned for contraband and weapons, and then unload Palestinian goods destined for Israel, reload with Israeli goods and are back on the road to deliver in the West Bank within 30 minutes.
Eisen said that with the peace talks paralyzed and a history of Palestinian violence, Israel was taking “a leap of faith” by investing in the goods terminals.
The two sides “understand that without a solution there is no future.” “If you will invest in the West Bank you will not make a big fortune, but it is worthwhile for our next generation,” Nudelman said.